Long thought of as primarily a management application to track and administer the finances, people, and activities of the church, modern church management software (“ChMS”) may also be one of the most powerful tools a church has to execute and enhance its discipleship process.
A Very Brief History of Church Management Software
The earliest example of a ChMS might be the attendance and giving board of days gone by, still hanging on the left of the platform in some older church buildings. In the mid-twentieth century, churches started modernizing their systems for managing membership records. Back then, it was all paper – ledger books and index cards. As churches grew and technologies improved, specially designed church management software emerged in the mid-seventies to better manage information about members and guests. Today, there exists a wide array of church management applications that serve a variety of roles.
A Powerful Tool to Assist Church Staff, Execute Ministry Processes, and Care for People
Beyond merely tracking important contact and contributions information, modern church management software also helps facilitate churches’ ministry processes to care for, serve, and minister to their members, guests, and community. If the “simple church” that Thom Rainer describes in his book “Simple Church” is “a congregation designed around a straightforward and strategic process that moves people through the stages of spiritual growth,” then the role of today’s church management software is to help pastors, staff, and leaders to manage their specific discipleship process. As churches grow and more people become involved in the process, the ChMS system provides a central place for staff and lay leaders to coordinate and track discipleship activities.
We recently served a church that had just completed a “visioning” project with Auxano. As a focus of that project, they defined their detailed discipleship process, from inviting someone to visit their church, to helping them find a community of worship, to plugging into a service team, living generously, and “living on mission.” The pastor for adults shared a process that started with a visitor completing a “connect card.” The process proceeded with his administrative assistant placing photocopies of the connect cards into his box and other staff members’ boxes. Once the pastor received his cards, he maintained a spreadsheet that contained a list of people to call, the result of those calls, and the subsequent actions for each contact. Other staff also maintained similar processes of their own.
The pastor for adults estimated that he spent 3-4 hours each week just maintaining the call list, not including the time for the actual calls. In many cases, multiple staff members would call the same person he was calling. None of the other staff calling that same contact (for different ministry purposes) were aware of his calls or the member or guest’s possible involvement with other church staff. This type of scenario can sometimes lead to awkward situations where the “left hand does not know what the right hand is doing,” and the guest can feel more like part of a process than a person. That certainly does not enhance the discipleship experience.
A modern ChMS makes all contact information and activity accessible from any device to any staff with the appropriate security. It allows staff to limit access to sensitive information to those who need it. Additionally, when a person expresses interest in the next step, that person’s record can be assigned to the staff or leader responsible for the next step – even automating the following actions based on triggers set in the system. For example, once a children’s ministry volunteer has submitted their application, the system can automatically send them a background check approval request or notify the children’s ministry coordinator that a new application is ready for assignment.
Using Data to Enable Volunteers, Serve Members and Enhance Ministry
In addition to enhancing the many facets of a church’s discipleship process, a properly configured ChMS can facilitate many other aspects of day-to-day ministry as well. ChMS can help church staff assign and schedule volunteers; at the same time, it also makes it easy for volunteers to accept or decline invitations. It allows contributors to easily give online, via text, or even check – and to specify designated funds that the church has defined. And it makes it convenient for contributors to see their giving statements at any time.
Finally, modern ChMS provides data reporting and analytics options that help churches measure their processes and plan for the future based on accurate information. When the church configures its software to support its specific ministry processes, it can use its data to make informed decisions about the future and find ministry opportunities that it may have missed otherwise.
At Enable, we can help you pick and implement tools that make your ChMS work for you instead of you working for it. Please feel free to contact us for more information at [email protected].